MATRIXSYNTH: Roland SH-3a - Playing the 'SAMPLER'

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Roland SH-3a - Playing the 'SAMPLER'

Published on Jun 16, 2019 Unun Septium

"The Roland SH-3a is an interesting little single oscillator monophonic synthesiser dating back to 1974. It was Roland's first non-preset based model and had some unusual features when compared to the typical organ-top design of the time.

The most obvious of these was the oscillator section, in which the single oscillator was divided into a range of different 'footages', somewhat akin to way a divide-down organ is voiced. These can be added or subtracted, in a choice of three different waveforms, to create a variety of timbres.

Another quite idiosyncratic feature of this synth is its Sample and Hold section. A little confusingly to the modern user, Roland labelled this 'SAMPLER'. This S&H can modulate pitch and filter settings using the more conventional random sampling, or use a choice of three different LFO shapes. Using a modulation matrix, each of these S&H LFOs can then in turn be further modulated by two seperate LFOs with three different waveforms. All told, it's quite a sophisticated feature for such an apparently modest synth.

I've been experimenting with trying to 'play' the sample and hold, i.e. get relatively musical patterns out of it. By shifting the relationship between the various LFOs and bringing the different footages of the oscillator in and out of the mix, along with the usual filter and envelope tweaking, it's surprised me how biddable it can be for live improvising.

I videoed a few of these efforts, thinking they might be interesting to others. On reflection, it wasn't the most enthralling visual spectacle, so I gratuitously rinsed the whole thing with a liberal dose of video effects, just to keep the eye busy.

The recording chain here is SH-3a to Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo to Yamaha RM602 mixer to Panasonic Lumix GH3 camera."

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